5 Ways to Stay Motivated as a Freelancer

February 11th, 2015

Written by:

When you don’t have a supervisor breathing down your neck, and you’re at home with a computer console just three feet away from you, it can be hard to find the motivation to get on with your work.

Thoughts of ‘Well I guess I can leave this stuff till later,’ enter your head and ‘I just need to relax a little bit first’. Then when you look down a game controller is somehow in your hands and when  you look up at the clock it’s 8 o’clock in the evening. 


Let’s see how we can fix this.

1. Define your workspace


If you’re working from home it can be really hard to motivate yourself to work. You become achingly aware of how slow the clock is moving. You get bored more quickly. Cabin fever starts setting in.

One solution is to find a co-working space near you where other freelancers rent desks. This helps separate your work life from your home life, and there’s the added benefit of socialising with like minded people and maybe even getting some help on your projects.

If getting an office is not an option for you, dedicate a space in your home as your office. The number one rule I would say about working from home is: DON’T make your bedroom your office. The lines between work and relaxing will become a dysfunctional blur and it won’t end well.

Find a space in your home (near a window preferably) and set yourself up with a decent desk and high quality office chair. You can optimise the space around you by putting storage solutions on to the wall. Keep anything distracting like televisions and computer game consoles as far away from that space as you can. This is also a chance to have some fun and personalise the space to your personality and interests.

Want some inspiration? Office Snapshots is a great site to browse photos of amazing looking office spaces around the world.

2. Establish a Routine


As a freelancer, one of the benefits is that you can set your own hours. Although it can be tempting start working at ‘whatever time I wake up’, I don’t recommend this approach. I’ve done this in the past and tried to compensate by working later in the day if I woke up late, but this leads to an unbalanced quality of life and terrible sleep patterns.

Set a time for when you ideally want to start working and when you want to stop working and stick to it. Set times for your lunch break and also some periodic short breaks during the day to get away from your computer and stretch your legs a bit. Once you clock off, avoid the temptation to check your emails or do anything work related so that you can relax properly.

Just so it doesn’t feel completely like a 9-5 situation, you can mix up your week by only working on client projects from Monday to Friday morning, and then spend Friday afternoon on a personal project.

3. Find your Golden Hours


Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioural economics, has found in his studies that people have two hours in the day when their mind is at its sharpest. For most people, this is the first two hours of waking up, but it might be different for you. He highly recommends that you use these two hours to work on things that require the most cognitive capacity if you want to get the most our of your day. He did an AMA on Reddit a few months ago where he talks about this and other fascinating things he’s learnt about time management.

So, find your golden hours and commit your most difficult tasks into this two hour time slot. Avoid any distractions (such as email and social media) and push any smaller tasks to a different time of the day.

4. Get Organised


Put aside 10 minutes in the evening to plan what you’re going to do the next day. You don’t need to assign what time you’re going to dedicate to each one, just make a list of tasks. Put a star next to the tasks which are high priority, or you can put them in ascending order of importance if you prefer that. A great online tool to do this with is Trello, which is essentially a bunch of virtual sticky notes on a board – and it’s free!

If you have a meeting the next day, use the evening to prepare for it such as printing things out, testing hardware to make sure it works or making sure your presentation is uploaded to Dropbox. There’s nothing worse then being flustered during a client meeting because of your own disorganisation.

5. Minimise Distractions


Is your phone pinging every 5 minutes? If you have an iPhone it may be worth going through your notification settings and turning off anything unimportant. Maybe there’s that game you downloaded last month that keeps begging you to start playing it again?

Using the ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode on an iPhone can be useful as it silences any notifications and alerts you get, but keeps it logged in the notification centre for you to check later. You can even schedule your iPhone to go into ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode for a certain period of time everyday.

6. Bonus Tip!

Stay curious and be open to that fact there will always be something new to learn. If you can fall in love with attaining  new knowledge and constantly improving your skills, you’ll have something to motivate you everyday.

How do you stay focused?

Please do share your ideas for staying focused and motivated below!

Posted in Freelancing Advice


Written by:

Creative Director and Co-Founder of Fivestar Apps Ltd - a mobile app development business that specialises in creating bespoke iPhone and Android apps for businesses.


One response to “5 Ways to Stay Motivated as a Freelancer”

  1. Jo Eyre says:

    Great post Dave!

    I’ve taken your advise on point 5 and stopped annoying notifications I don’t need.

    I’ve also recently started using a Pebble Smart Watch which actually stops me from checking my phone / Facebook, etc every 2 minutes for activity. If someone has something to say it pops up on my watch, if it’s important I can get to it, if it’s not I can ignore it and sort it out later.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe for event updates!

We'll drop you the occassional newsletter about upcoming PFMeet events

Our Privacy Policy

Summer BBQ tickets!

11th July @ The Dolphin, Old Portsmouth.
Tickets for the 2024 Portsmouth Freelancers Summer BBQ are on sale.

Latest Posts


Design Talks 2015

Portsmouth Freelancers

Our Sponsors

We try and keep our events as free/cheap as possible for attendees, and we can only do this with the help of sponsors. Want to become a sponsor? Simply get in touch to find out how we can work together!

Ask about sponsorship